Fighting to erase stigma
LOSING three people close to her before the age of 21 has spurred Glenrowan woman Liz Frazer to join the fight to erase the stigma of suicide and seeking help.
In the past year, she has become part of the regional organisation Beechworth to Bridge ( B2B), led by Beechworth woman Lisa Cartledge.
The organisation was formed by people affected by suicide, whose mission is to remove the stigma of suicide, improve the process of healing and promote the concept that depression is treatable and suicide is preventable.
Liz’s father, a Vietnam veteran living with PTSD, took his own life when she was just 13, while her mother died by suicide just after Liz turned 20.
She also lost a friend suddenly soon after finishing school.
Liz said that going through these experiences not only deeply affected her, but also made her determined to fight the stigma and silence surrounding suicide, and she has been making an impact by helping spread the word about B2B as its website and social media creator.
She said that average numbers of people who die by suicide are often double the road toll, noting that while we are bombarded with road safety campaigns, there are few similar campaigns related to suicide and mental health.
“It’s a cause close to my heart,” Liz said.
“The healing journey, and the impact of suicide, just goes on and on.
“We don’t talk about suicide and mental health, and it’s all around us.
“We’re trying to encourage open conversations. “It’s OK not to be OK.” Liz said she has been forever changed by her experiences, adding that it has helped her become more empathetic towards others, but has also made her hyper aware of other people’s emotions, which can sometimes trigger anxiety.
But she said there are many things people can do if they find themselves struggling.
“The hardest thing to do is just to say, ‘I need help’,” she said.
“Once you recognise your need, say something, speak up – people will rally.
“There are support services out there.
“Nobody is invincible, least of all me, and we owe it to each other to be present, offer real support, and never fear to make the call for help when it is needed.”
Liz urged people wanting to make a difference in their community to seek out “mental health first aid” courses.
Members of the group are currently undertaking an “elephant walk” from Beechworth to Sydney, spreading awareness, fundraising and fostering conversation on the topic at local communities along the way.
Liz said the walk, led by Lisa Cartledge, was so named because suicide can become the “elephant in the room” that people do not discuss.
Fellow B2B member Shane Crispin said he came on board with the group because “it’s so important that we discuss mental health and lived suicide experiences the same way we discuss cancer and it’s lived experiences.
“If you have been touched by suicide, you’ll know the damaging effect it can have on survivors when friends or relatives find your loved one is somehow unmentionable, taboo, or shameful or your mental health issues are not discussed openly and respectfully,” she said.
“There is no shame in suicide or surviving suicide.”
Shane said being on the group has helped him form “lifelong friendships” and that all involved are looking forward to continuing their work with other events and initiatives in the future.
DEDICATED TO THE CAUSE: Liz Frazer from Glenrowan is among a group of North East residents working towards breaking down the barriers of suicide stigma.
COMMUNITY SPIRIT: The Beechworth to Bridge walk kicked off over Easter.